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Farewell: Joe Sample

2.1.39–9.12.14

Joe Sample
Joe Sample and Randy Crawford

Piano players don’t very often get to know each other as well as players of other instruments because there’s only one per gig. But through various mutual friends Joe Sample and I did meet, and at some point I decided I would try to create a way for Joe and I to work together. I was doing an album that ended up being 2001’s Dancing on the Water. It had started out as a solo piano project, but I wasn’t really comfortable with being alone so I decided to do some duets and I asked Joe. He had a reputation for being very specific about his taste and what he did and didn’t want to do, so I was flattered that he accepted my offer. I’d written a couple of tunes with him in mind and we did them in New York and it was fun and he was very cooperative.

When I listened to Joe Sample play, he inspired me to dig deeper. It always felt to me that every note meant something to him. I could feel it when I listened to his touch, the way he went from one note to the next. It was very deliberate; he was very rhythmic, and there was a strong feeling about where the pulse and the groove were on every note. I always responded to his minimalism; he was very much a single-note type of player as a soloist, which I totally related to. He didn’t solo in a flashy, virtuosic style, and I’ve always tried to approach the piano the same way, rather than playing a whole lot of notes.

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